Life After Now.
Liz Bolsoni 00:08
Hello and welcome back to the Life After Now podcast. I'm your host Liz. I'm a communication studies student at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education and think about what it means for your life after now. You'll be able to connect with inspirational guests who have first hand experience and expertise surrounding education in Minnesota. Today, I'll be talking with Preenon Huq. Preenon is an accountant that Metro Transit. He's here today to offer advice for our listeners on how to manage their personal finances. Preenon, thank you so much for joining me today.
Preenon Huq 00:46
Oh, you're welcome. I'm excited to be here and talk to everybody about personal finance.
Liz Bolsoni 00:51
Would you want to give a little introduction about yourself to our listeners?
Preenon Huq 00:54
Yeah. So my name is Preenon Huq. I'm an accountant with Metro Transit. I've been really into personal finance basically, since I was about 15 years old. Over the last couple of years I've maximized a lot of the personal finance knowledge that I have, and I've given that back to the community. As of right now, I have over $200,000 saved at age 25. And my goal was to graduate with no debt, which I end up doing, no college student loans or anything, as well as I actually had an excessive amount of money, I ended up graduating with about $90,000 in cash, which was a pretty big accomplishment for myself, while still enjoying the lifestyle that I wanted to have in travel, and find a good career after college as well.
Liz Bolsoni 01:42
Right? So before we dive into all that cool money stuff, I do have a fun icebreaker for you. If you were to give advice or words of affirmation to your high school self, what would you say?
Preenon Huq 01:52
I would say try, try, try. Like just try things, you know, see what you like, what you don't like, especially after you graduate. It's very easy to get into, like, specialized things, or only one industry or things that you tend to like and then your path becomes a lot more narrow. The more experience and the things you try, whether it's a hobby and making it a career or doing things on the weekends, just give it a shot, even if you're new to it. I think that's one of the biggest things that I am glad that I've done, and I wish I could see more from others.
Liz Bolsoni 02:27
Yeah. So you said your your interest in personal finance has kind of started when you were 15. You're pretty young. So what has your journey been like with financial literacy and what drew you to it in the first place?
Preenon Huq 02:42
It really started when I was about 15, because I wanted to save money for the things that I wanted. And I kind of wanted to start saving for the future. It really started with one of my neighbors, he's 73, he retired at 56. And that was really eye opening to me that, you know, retiring nine years early than everybody else. And he gets to spend every day doing whatever he wants and what he loves. And I thought that was really cool. And then when I got to about 16, 17 -- I was 17 working at a bank, and I just saw so many people's accounts [in the] negatives, a lot of people who were struggling [with] financial hardship. I worked at one that was local to my high school. So I saw some of my friend's parents, and just seeing how they were living paycheck to paycheck, when their kids obviously didn't know or kind of the reality of how people were living. And obviously, over time, people have been doing financially better. And there's more knowledge out there. But even that, like 6, 7, 8 years ago, the knowledge was not there. There was less people interested in it. And I think that's pretty crazy, right? I mean, it's such a big part of everybody's life, and it's something that is very taboo to talk about. There's not a lot of information. There's no -- everybody's decision on it is different. So it's very hard to navigate through and trying to learn more about it. And so that's why I like to give a lot of conversation, because what even like the information out there is very similar to each other, which doesn't necessarily apply to everybody. Because when it comes to money, you can spend it in so many different ways. Everybody has a different situation. Some people need whatever excess amount of money that they're making. They might be making a high salary, but they have a lot of medical bills to pay for other people to take care of. You might have somebody who doesn't make as much money but they don't have any expenses. So their lifestyles obviously very different. So it's hard to like generalize and get good information that fits everybody.
Liz Bolsoni 04:44
So now that you were just saying we shouldn't generalize. I do have kind of a general question. But you know, financial barriers in general are one of the biggest reasons people are hesitant or don't end up getting a post-secondary education. What advice or major tips and tricks do you have for high schoolers who are listening and are worried about financial situations as they're applying for college?
Preenon Huq 05:09
Invest in yourself first, and then invest in the others around you. I saw a statistic on like, why college is so expensive, and how students of color are actually worse off when they go to college, financially, than if they would have just continued on with the way that they're living. Because a lot of their family, they might be first generation, the first person to go to college, and then their family kind of thinks that they're the lottery winner, right. But coming out of school, but the student loans and with the amount of money that they're making, they might be making only $20 to $25 an hour, which is a pretty good starting pay for a single person. If you're -- before, if you didn't go to college, and you were making $14 to $15 an hour, but nobody's -- you don't have student loans, and nobody's asking you for money, that's a pretty good salary. So, in that case, you have to really invest in yourself. You have to find ways to develop skills that you can be a better person, ways to make more money in the future, to get promotions, working really hard for yourself, using the money to invest early on in your 401k. And, again, just really putting your foot down on investing in yourself and letting your family know, and the people around you, like, I want to help out, but I need to take care of myself first, and then I will help the others around me. And I think that's something that a lot of students might not know at the time of how important it is. And it's a hard feeling too, because obviously, when you're making more money, you might be making more money than your parents, you want to feel like I should be giving it back to them. They've helped me this far, which is true, but with the knowledge that you learned from college, and the resources that you have, you don't want to get tied down by your family, and then come back and bring them up and use those resources with the the additional knowledge that you have. And I think that when it comes to college, if you're worried about the education, and the cost of it, it's like, people say that with a doctor, right, medical school, or a dentist, but those people -- I mean, I haven't seen a poor dentist in a very long time, right. So they're half a million dollars in student loans is pretty relevant because of how much money that they're making in income. And so what you have to do as a dentist is you need to obviously do well, and then most dentists go into private practice and create their own business. And that's where a lot of the money comes from, but then paying off their loans isn't really an issue at all because of the income that they're bringing. And that's going to be with anything, I think that a lot of us think, okay, we need to get out of debt so quickly. And we need to get rid of this burden. But in reality, it's just understanding is this a good value for how much money I'm bringing in? Because, again, the dentist, or any business -- if you went and wanted to open a restaurant right now, a restaurant's basically a million dollars. Well, nobody's paying off their million dollar loan in ten years, I mean, it's a 30 year loan. And then you want to make enough as the when you're operating the restaurant to pay all your employees, and maybe you take like $50,000 to $60,000 a year, and you're just making enough to get by. But your overall goal in 20 to 30 years is that you'll sold sell the restaurant and the restaurant may be worth $2 million, and then you pay off the loan. And I think that when you're young, it's hard to understand that things come in 20 or 30 years, especially when we see so many successful businesses, and so many successful people. But in reality, wealth isn't created overnight.
Liz Bolsoni 08:48
So you know, students like myself, who are also working, you've got money coming in, and then a lot of it is going right back out to school. And in most cases spending so much of your money on one thing wouldn't be a good idea, right? But what do you think being good with your money looks like for students? And how do we manage our earnings and our income in a good way?
Preenon Huq 09:10
It's really about budgeting out for the things that are repeated patterns. For me, I knew every semester that I would have to pay at least $500 in books, so I'd budget that out. If I could find the books, whether they're on eBay, or if I found them price matched through the publisher themselves. Sometimes like those online codes -- you get the book and online code -- it was way more expensive at the bookstore than if I would have bought it from the publisher -- it was almost half. And then maybe I got a digital book. And it's only good for that semester. But that still comes out better than renting the book. Or sometimes I'd buy it on eBay for a discounted price. And then I would sell it back at the end of the semester for a similar price of what I paid. So I actually kind of use the book for free. But overall, I knew that I was going to be spending about $500 every semester on books. And then you want to calculate do I go out on the weekends? So do I go out with my friends and we go to a restaurant, or do we go bowling or Top Golf or whatever it may be, that might be $50 to $100, every weekend. And so you calculate that out. I think it was, what 15 weekends and the school semester, so like, that's gonna be $1500-ish. And then you add on your books, and then maybe some other like housing costs. And so then you make a goal of how much money you need to make before that time comes up. And then you can really determine how much -- so again, if we just use the example of a semester cost [of] $5,000. So $5,000, then what do we need to do that summer to make $5,000? How many hours do we need to work to make the $5,000 and then everything else is a bonus, right? That's all money that can go into savings. And then if you go out one weekend, and maybe one weekend, it's only $30, instead of $50. Or vice versa, when weekend's $80 instead of $50, you can balance it out, but stay on line with your budget. I think people get scared of the costs, and then they just spend and they don't want to look at their card, or their statement, or how much they're spending because it looks so bad. But if you pre-plan for it, and then you make a goal of how much to save, and then you have that amount saved, and then you budget off of this amount that you have saved, and then trying to find discounts on where you can save, whether it's again, going out on the weekends, or if it's maybe finding ways to find new books cheaper, your housing cheaper, then you're in the red, and you've just got a bonus. If you go the other way, and maybe some semesters are more expensive than others, and some are cheaper than other semesters. No matter what it is -- with the COVID recently, obviously a lot of people were at home, so they didn't have the cost of living on campus. So that's a win, right. So you would want to maybe continue working that semester, save up some money, and then the next semester live in a nicer place, or just use that and put it towards your savings account. One last thing to add is, I think that you also have to know yourself. Like for me, I knew living on campus was going to be more expensive. But I know that when I'm in the school setting, and I'm not commuting, my grades go up. And I prove that. Every semester I was on campus, I did better. And I know that there's so many people who are like, I want to save money, I don't want to live on campus. But then for me, I know that living at home is harder because when it's 10 or 11 o'clock, and I'm at the library now I got to drive home 30 minutes, I lost 30 minutes in the morning, I lost 30 minutes in the afternoon, I lost 10, 15 minutes parking, and walking to where I needed to go. Like, all that time adds up. Where if I spend that five minutes to walk to my dorm room, it was worth it. But I always told my parents, too, that I'm not going to live anywhere off campus. Because if I have to get in my car, and it's a 10 minute drive, whether it's a 10 minute drive, or a 20 minute drive from living at home, the fact that I have to get in my car and park and figure all this stuff out, more or less is gonna eat up the same or similar amount of time. So I wasn't willing to do that. But if I'm living right on campus, and I can walk to my classes easy and go to the library where I need to, I will do better. And I and I did. Every semester I did significantly better than the one semester I was commuting.
Liz Bolsoni 13:34
Yeah. Could you tell us a little bit more about how you personally prepared to pay for college and what steps you took to be financially stable or ready to make that investment?
Preenon Huq 13:45
So I wasn't the best student coming out of high school. I got waitlisted into Augsburg. And so I didn't even want to go to college. It wasn't really an option. My dad was like, no way you're going to college, even though he took a gap year before he went. So I really wanted to take the semester off. But he encouraged me to go and so I end up going but then I was like "alright, I'm gonna go but I don't want any debt." And so the average student was graduating with about $30,000 in debt. So my goal was to graduate with $10,000 saved before I went. And so that summer, and the year prior, I was working at a bank and I was working at McDonald's part time. And I was just putting -- I would get $60 from McDonald's, and I would use that for spending money. And I would use $600 from TCF, from the bank that I was working on, and putting that into my savings. And then I hit the $10,000 goal. And so in my first semester at school, I said I'm not going to work. I'm just going to focus on school and that's my job. And this $10,000 that I have will help pay for college.
Liz Bolsoni 14:49
So you know, you've thrown a lot of numbers out there and I think some of our listeners might have grown up or been uncomfortable talking about money. What do you say to people who don't want to bring it up because it's a touchy subject? Or is that good? Is that bad?
Preenon Huq 15:05
I think you have to kind of find the comfort zone in you and your family and the people around you. People have no problem talking to me about money. Because I, obviously, that's my thing. That's what I'm into. It just also depends on how genuine somebody wants to have that conversation. If they are asking to know, to see how much respect that you deserve because of your salary, or your income bracket. Or if it's like wondering because you do a similar career, and they're trying to help you develop or if your job is hiring. So if my work was hiring, and I know that my friends are making $40,000 to $50,000, and recruiters are reaching out to me, but I know my friends are a good fit, then that's a good situation where if I know my friends are making $40,000 to $50,000, I could refer them to the company and let them know like, "Hey, you should look at this company, or you should consider working for them. Because you could be making $15,000 to $20,000 more," versus if I never said that, right. I wouldn't know that they're making significantly less. And I see that with so many people. They come out of school, they're only making $40,000 to $50,000, and they should be making $60 to $70 [thousand], especially two, three years out of their career. And a big part of that is because they don't know. They don't know what their fields should be making. They look on Google and it says $40-50,000 for an accountant. And they just assume that that's an adequate salary. When you're looking, it's best to talk about that, because then you can start to get a salary range, you can get experience, you can ask people, what did you do to get to that level? And then you kind of grow and you can follow on some of those footsteps? If you don't know you don't know. And you'll never know really, because if you don't ask, no one's gonna tell you. And you might not realize that something that they did is something that you are missing out on, whether it's an internship, an interview, joining those -- or an organization, it just all depends.
Liz Bolsoni 17:05
So we talked about internships, just a tiny bit, and they're obviously really helpful to getting career experience. How did you leverage your internship into the career that you have today?
Preenon Huq 17:18
I used -- actually originally, I used a lot of my previous career prior to college to leverage myself. So like, I worked at McDonald's starting and then that gave me the experience for cashier experience to work at TCF. And then after TCF I worked at Metro Transit as an intern. And the Metro Transit internship really liked that I had the experience working at the bank at TCF. So all that added together. And then eventually I worked for a Big Four accounting firm, and they liked that I worked at TCF and that I worked at Metro Transit. So both of those things resonated well with their business. When it comes to the situation, when it comes to looking for an internship, I always recommend go for bigger companies. Like look for the Targets. Look for the Googles. Look for ones out of state. But the internship program at a big company is going to be more structured. It's going to -- you might learn some things that you didn't know about before. And then on top of all of that, you put it all together, you're going to be more valuable because that small company wants to know what the big companies are doing. And the smaller companies, you can wear a lot more hats, but you have experience from the big companies. And you'll meet people from all over the country, all over the world, with similar mindsets. And so you're just building your network that way as well. And again, if you do an internship at a different city, like I had a friend who did one in New York, he thought for sure after college, he was going to move to New York and love it. Well, doing an internship was really good for him because he could see if he liked New York, found out he doesn't like New York. And their program was great for actually housing and showing you where to live or where other interns used to live.
Liz Bolsoni 19:00
So in the case that internships don't happen, or we're not there yet. A lot of times we're looking for summer employment. What advice do you have for students seeking jobs in the summer?
Preenon Huq 19:11
I would say try to look for companies before the -- if they have like a summer internship or a summer program for people who are interested in a field. A lot of the companies in the Minneapolis area like Great Rivers Energy, Target, Medtronic have high school programs where you get to learn about the business, what they do. Sometimes they have like summer activities, and that's only like a week or two. But just even building that connection, because you're going to meet somebody who works at the business. They're going to tell you about Medtronic, or the company, and you will be engaged and you can see if that's something that you're interested in. Or they might know somebody who works for another company. And you'll just learn something, I guarantee it. If you're paying attention and you talk to these people, you'll learn something. Look for careers on things that you want. Want to do in the future. And I usually recommend looking for fun jobs. Like I worked as a wedding DJ for five years through college. And I really enjoyed that. And that's just not something I want to do the rest of my life, even though I probably could be making more money than as an accountant, eventually doing it. But I don't want to do that, because I don't want to give up every Friday, Saturday, Sunday of my life. I don't want to spend those three days working, basically 10 am to 2 am, three days a week, even if I get basically monday through thursday off. I just don't want to do that. So if you're looking for a job this summer, I would say look for fun ones. Work for companies that align with what you are into, and maybe ones that you want to work for one day. If you want to become a computer engineer for Target, go work in a Target store and see what you like about it, what you don't like about it, write some notes about it. And really think of how if you became a computer engineer at Target, whether maybe you don't like the clocking in system there. Maybe you don't like the way that they scan items, but you can change that once you go to school, and develop those skills.
Liz Bolsoni 21:07
It's great advice. Do you have any last parting words for our listeners?
Preenon Huq 21:11
Just going back and let's say you just try things like you don't even realize how quickly you can become an expert at something. I usually say it takes two to three years of getting pretty good of doing it every day. If you want to build a website and learn how to do that, just use -- pretend that Nike is your client and build fake websites. If you want to become a photographer, start taking pictures of your own apartment space or your parents house, and see how being a real estate photographer would be. You know, you don't have to have a concrete setting or structure to do something. A lot of the best people do things as hobbies. And it's like, wow, that was really cool. That was unique. The guy who just recently did the video of the drone going through Brian's Bowling. I don't know if you saw that. Or going through the Target Center, but it's a first person drone. And he like maneuvers through the Target Center. And now like places all over the country want him to do that. And that guy's from Duluth, Minnesota that went to college up there. And he just did that for fun. He was really into drones. So something to definitely think about, when you're looking into different positions and creating. If somebody doesn't offer you a job for it, you know, create your own thing and see how it would work out.
Liz Bolsoni 22:29
That's awesome. Thank you so much for joining us Preenon and sharing your story about financial literacy and giving some financial advice to our listeners. I appreciate your time today.
Preenon Huq 22:39
Liz Bolsoni 22:40
I also want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. This podcast was brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. And we encourage you to dig into the resources mentioned in this episode, which you can find in the show notes at our website lifeafternowpodcast.mn.gov. Don't forget to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts so that you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, everyone. I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.